The Independent Pharmacy

Waking Up With Dry Eyes? How to Prevent Dry Eyes in the Morning

Andy Boysan
Andy BoysanBPharmDirector & Superintendent Pharmacist

Reviewed on 24 Jan 2023

Fortunately, if you’re suffering from dry eyes in the morning, you can take advantage of various effective treatment options and at-home remedies to help alleviate and prevent symptoms. Let’s first look at what causes dry eyes in the morning, then explore some of the primary dry-eye symptoms and recommend some effective dry-eye remedies.

Why do I have dry eyes in the morning?

Dry eyes are caused by your eyes not producing enough tears or the tears evaporating too quickly. There are typically one of three reasons for this happening. Let’s look at them:

Nocturnal lagophthalmos (NL)

This condition causes an inability to fully close eyelids during sleep, which can impair the function of the ‘tear film’ (a layer of fluid which covers the eye’s surface) and may lead to dry eyes in the morning. NL is usually caused by damage to the nerves or muscles in your face, typically stemming from events such as the following:

  • A stroke
  • Bell’s palsy
  • Neuromuscular disease
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Cosmetic eyelid surgery
  • A head or facial injury
  • Consumption of alcohol
  • Use of sleeping pills

Reduced tear production

Dry eyes can also be the result of the tear glands not producing enough tears. Tears are produced to lubricate and protect the outer layer of the eye, and if your body’s production of tears is lower than normal you may often wake up with dry eyes. There can be a number of reasons for inadequate tear production, including:

  • Your age (tear production naturally decreases as we get older)
  • Not blinking often enough (for example, when looking at a screen for too long)
  • Being out in dry or windy environments
  • A medical condition such as diabetes or thyroid disease
  • Medications such as antihistamines, antidepressants, decongestants, and some blood pressure medications
  • Hormonal changes such as menopause or pregnancy
  • Laser eye surgery

Insufficient tear quality

As well as often being caused by the tear glands not producing enough tears, dry eyes can also be the result of a reduction in the quality of tears. Tears consist of three layers — the water, oil and mucus layers — and if there is an issue with one or more of these layers, this can lead to tears evaporating too quickly or not covering the entirety of the eye’s surface.

The most common cause of insufficient tear quality is a condition called keratoconjunctivitis sicca, which is where the tears do not produce a sufficient amount of the water layer.

Whatever the cause, dry eyes can theoretically affect anyone. However, you’re more likely to suffer from dry eyes if any of the following apply to you:

  • You’re aged 50 or over
  • You’re female
  • You wear contact lenses
  • You spend long periods looking at a screen
  • You’re exposed to air conditioning or heating for long periods
  • You’re not getting enough vitamin A or omega-3 from your diet
  • You’re a smoker or drink alcohol regularly
  • You have an autoimmune disease such as lupus or Sjögren syndrome
  • You take certain medications such as high blood pressure medication or antidepressants

Symptoms of dry eyes in the morning

Waking up with dry eyes can be uncomfortable and often painful, and it can play havoc with your typical morning routine. If your eyes are not sufficiently lubricated and you’re frequently waking up with dry eyes, you may notice one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Redness on the whites of the eyes
  • A stinging, burning sensation
  • Itchy eyes
  • Watery eyes
  • Stringy mucus around the eyes
  • Increased sensitivity to light
  • Blurred vision

If you’re suffering from dry eyes as a result of insufficient or low-quality tear production, you may also notice that:

  • Your eyes feel tired
  • You struggle to wear contact lenses
  • You cannot produce tears when you cry

How to prevent waking up with dry eyes

If the sound of your alarm going off is frequently accompanied by itchy, watery eyes and blurred vision (among some of the other symptoms listed above), you can thankfully choose from a number of effective dry eye treatments and at-home remedies that can reduce and even prevent dry eyes in the morning.

Treatments for dry eyes

There are a number of treatment options available for dry eyes, most of which can be purchased over the counter without the need for a prescription. However, you should always consult with a GP or pharmacist, as they will be able to recommend the most suitable treatment. Dry eye treatments include:

  • Eye drops. The most common treatment option for dry eyes, eye drops are applied directly to the surface of the eye and help to soothe soreness and ease irritation. A number of eye drop treatments are available to buy online, including Hycosan Dual Eye Drops, Systane Ultra Eye Drops, and Hylo-Tear Eye Drops.
  • Cleansing lotions. A cleansing lotion such as Blephasol Eyelid Cleansing Lotion can be applied to remove dirt, impurities and secretions from the eyelids and surrounding areas, which may help to prevent and treat dry eye symptoms.
  • Hygiene wipes. Eyelid wipes such as Blephaclean Eyelid Wipes can be used to gently clean the eyelid area and reduce inflammation, puffiness, redness and crusting caused by blepharitis and dry eyes.
  • Heat masks. Applying a heat mask such as Optase Moist Heat Mask over closed eyes for up to 30 minutes will help to absorb moisture from the environment and hydrate the eyes.

At-home remedies for dry eyes

Since dry eyes can often be caused by lifestyle and environmental factors (such as staring at a screen for too long or spending too much time in air-conditioned spaces) as well as a tear deficiency, there are a number of lifestyle changes you can make to help prevent dry eyes in the morning. Try some of the following:

  • Avoid prolonged ‘screen time’. Looking at a computer, TV or mobile phone screen for long periods can dry out the eyes, so take regular breaks.
  • If you use a computer, position the screen below eye level. This will prevent you from having to widen your eyes to view the screen, which can cause the eyes to dry out quicker.
  • Ensure you get enough sleep. Tired eyes are more likely to feel dry and uncomfortable, so try to get at least 7 hours of sleep per night.
  • Keep your eyes clean. Regularly clean your eyes to remove any dirt or impurities that might irritate them, and make sure you remove eye makeup before bed.
  • Use a humidifier. Particularly in the winter, using a humidifier can add moisture to dry indoor air. You should also avoid spending too long in heated or air-conditioned environments and limit your use of fans and hair dryers.
  • Wear protective eyewear. Wraparound sunglasses can protect the eyes in particularly dry or windy conditions, which can help prevent them from drying out.
  • Stop smoking. People who smoke are more prone to eye dryness, so quitting will help to prevent dry eyes. You should also avoid spending too much time around other people who smoke.
  • Stay hydrated. Drinking plenty of water throughout the day will keep you nicely hydrated, which can help to prevent dry eyes.
Hycosan Original Eye Drops
Hycosan Original Eye Drops
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There can be a number of reasons for your eyes being dry when you wake up in the morning, and the symptoms can be pretty unpleasant. However, by using a treatment such as eye drops or a cleansing lotion, and making small lifestyle changes such as reducing your screen time and investing in a humidifier, you can help to prevent dry eyes in the morning and get your day off to a better start.

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